Public Rights of Way (aka footpaths and bridleways)
I hope many of you are taking advantage of our lovely summer weather to enjoy the wonderful network of public rights of way that criss-cross our local area. As you may be aware, each local authority (in our case East Sussex County Council) has a statutory duty to maintain public rights of way in conjunction with the landowners over whose property they cross. This involves everything from signage, stiles, gates, bridges and clearing paths to dealing with legal matters such as requests for diversions and blocked footpaths. Did you know that it is estimated that there is staggering total of more than 140,000 miles of public rights of way in England and Wales be maintained? But there are continuing threats to this wonderful resource – paths become blocked and fall into disuse as a result, or they become unused because of difficulty of access – collapsing stiles, poor signage, crop cover etc. So everyone who values access to the countryside needs to keep vigilant.
The East Sussex Rights of Way team do a wonderful job in protecting rights of way in our county, but in these days of budget cuts and austerity they are keen to encourage local communities to get involved to help them with this work. Parishes can form local groups either under the auspices of ESCC who help with training and advice and provide legal protection or on a more informal local basis, possibly with the help of the Parish Council. At the moment we have four volunteers including myself plus the assistance of our parish clerk, but it is yet to be decided whether we become a formal ESCC group. The group could undertake tasks such as footpath clearance, replacing some signage and mending stiles, plus keeping an eye on the general state of footpaths in our area. Obviously we would work with ESCC Rights of Way and respect the rights of local landowners. I also envisage that at some stage we could extend our activities to provide information on possible local walks, perhaps through our village website.
So what can you do to help us to maintain and protect footpaths locally?
If you don’t want to join the group, help us by telling us about any issues you come across (a missing sign, a wobbly stile for example). If you are not sure whether the path is in our parish, don’t worry we can pass the information on if it is not. Please use the contact details above.
Report issues yourself directly to East Sussex via the easy to use Rights of Way ‘Report a Problem’ form. There is a useful interactive map to help you locate the number of the path and stile, gate or bridge. https://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/leisureandtourism/countryside/rightsofway/map/. There is a link to reporting a problem on this page.
The Ramblers Association also have a Pathwatch campaign https://www.ramblers.org.uk/bigpathwatch through which problems can be reported.
Rights of Way Co-ordinator